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Digital Taps for Clark Terry?


I was informed that at the funeral for the great trumpeter, Clark Terry, the US Navy provided military funeral honors as all services should do for our veterans. I am heartbroken to find out that the digital bugle (which plays a recorded version of Taps though a device while being held by a member of the Honor Guard) was used to render the final musical honors to this great Jazz trumpeter who also gave part of his life in service to our country. I am fully aware of the need for the digital bugle in cases where the military cannot provide a live bugler or one can’t be found. We in the MDNG Honor Guard use the digital for some funerals in Maryland despite having a number of contracted buglers to play at funerals. (*side note: I’d love to see 100% live for those services I’m responsible for in MD)

There are many organizations that help provide buglers for services. A list can be found here:
Or you can always google “Find a Bugler”

One would of thought, considering the man being buried, that a real trumpeter would have been used. I can think of about 100 players (me being one of them) who would have gladly sounded the call at the service. There is NO regulation that states Taps must be performed by a military person. It could have been sounded by a live musician. I am not aware of the circumstances but feel very sad that this would have happened. It could be as simple as when the funeral home contacted the Navy to provide honors they were informed “yes, we’ll send a bugler.” They may have had no idea who the man under the flag was.

Most Military Funeral Honors details around the country send the recorded Taps. Approximately 80% of military funerals use the digital bugle today. Almost all the Veteran Service Organizations (VSOs) (America Legion, VFW etc..) use the fake bugle too.

While the Department of Defense Instruction calls for the use of military or civilian buglers (volunteer or contracted), many Funeral Honors programs (Military and VSO) simply don’t for many reasons. Here are a few IMO.

1. Many don’t access to a military bugler through active duty, guard or reserves.
2. Many don’t have the resources to pay for them although there is a Federal Stipend available for buglers playing Taps.
3. The’ve been burned by buglers/trumpeters who don’t show up (it happens!!)
4. They’ve had some really bad players show up.
5. They prefer to have someone in uniform as part of the detail.
6. Some rather have the recording to insure a “prefect” Taps.

Even when a volunteer or professional arrives at at service to find a VSO there with their “bugler”, that person is told by the VSO, “Joe is our bugler and we use him. He’s too old to fire a rifle so we use him on the bugle..”
It also happens that in the military too. Sometimes they refuse to let a real person play in place of the digital.
However, This is NOT true everywhere. Many military and VSOs are happy to have a live player. And I hope many trumpeters do step up to render this important honor for our veterans.

One thing to remember for those who work with Military or VSOs,-CHECK YOUR EGO AT THE DOOR. If you work with a group, talk politely to the person in charge of the detail. Don’t be pissed if they ask to hear you play before the service. I actually had a guy who wanted to work for my program but wouldn’t audition for me, even when I offered to drive to his location in NE Maryland. “I DON’T AUDITION FOR ANYONE!!” Needless to say he wasn’t hired….
Sometimes we musicians can be our worst enemy.

Here is the DoD Instruction:
5.3.7. Provide a bugler, either military or civilian, for the sounding of Taps. Bugler support may be contracted or voluntary. The Military Service responsible for providing military funeral honors shall ensure that there is an active search for a bugler. If none is available, the Service representative may authorize the playing of a high quality recording of Taps on a stereo player or ceremonial bugle and shall ensure that it is available.

I’m just wondering what was going through the minds of all the musicians (many who have lost gigs because of recorded music) standing at the graveside when the recording of Taps started.

while I’m sad this happened at the funeral for Clark Terry, I am glad to see the awareness of the need for live players for our veterans!

Here is a photo of the bugler at the service for Clark:18420_10153049727194627_1431730070753306687_n

A followup story to this

Taps for Lew


  1. Tapsbugler Tapsbugler Post author | March 6, 2015

    Thanks so much Cheryl. For all you do!

  2. Cheryl Przytula Cheryl Przytula March 6, 2015

    Hi Jari, I have a lot of respect for you, your work and your military career. I spent a couple years in a base honor guard and would like to impart a little info. When we receive funeral requests, we would assign details based on our availability. Keep in mind, sometimes you will have more than 1 funeral that day and they may be occurring at the same time. Unless a live bugler was specifically requested, we would send the detail with the electronic bugle. Whenever we encountered a person who wanted to play live Taps at a funeral, we always let them. For future reference, if you (anyone reading this) might be attending a funeral for a musician and want to play Taps, bring your horn and work it out with the Honor Guard before the ceremony. Had even ONE person at Mr. Terry’s funeral wanted to play Taps and had their horn with them, all they needed to do was talk to the Honor Guard before the burial; I bet they would have allowed the live player. Lastly, do NOT assume that the attending Honor Guard is aware of the celebrity of the deceased. Maybe this is a hard and unfortunate lesson, but maybe it won’t happen again. Best wishes, Cheryl

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